How can I avoid a will contest?
The most basic tool in estate planning is a Last Will and Testament or a will. This document allows you to establish how your assets will be distributed after death and name beneficiaries to receive those assets. Most importantly, a will is the only means for selecting guardians to care for minor children.
There are circumstances, however, when disputes arise among surviving family members that lead to a will contest. These disputes are often the result of changes to the distribution plan, a challenge to the person who has been named executor, or questions about the mental capacity of the testator.
How to Avoid a Will Contest
There are steps you can take to avoid a will contest. One common mistake people make is to delay preparing a will until their health is failing. If you are not of sound mind and body at the time the will is created, a contest can arise because you may have lacked mental capacity.
In addition it is crucial to select a trustworthy person who has at least a basic understanding of financial matters. If this person is not ethical or has issues handling their own money, their ability to act as executor is likely to be challenges.
Another claim that can be the basis for a will contest is that the testator was under undue influence of one of the beneficiaries. This situation can be avoided by working privately with you attorney, and your beneficiaries should not be part of those discussions. Moreover, it is a conflict of interest for beneficiaries to act as witnesses to the will. Once your will is in place, you should discuss your plan with your loved ones so that there are no surprises.
Keep Your Will Updated
A comprehensive estate plan is one that should reflect changes to your personal and financial situation that occur over your lifetime, such as the birth of children after the will is in place, the acquisition of additional property and assets, as well the possibility of divorce and remarriage. Therefore, your will should be updated to reflect these changes.
In the end, will contests ultimately become a matter for the probate court to decide. These proceedings can be costly and have long lasting consequences for your surviving loved ones. The best way to avoid a will contest is to engage the services of an estate planning attorney who can ensure the will is properly designed and executed. Working with an attorney can also support the validity of the will, and prevent a contest.